For the last three months, I experimented with unplugging from social media. My motivation was very practical. I walked into the down time holding an ambitious to-do list. But unplugging turned into a re-wiring of my entire life. This post is about how I lost and then, found love.
To recap: On Aug. 22, I blogged about unplugging for a month. Just a month. That’s all I wanted. Four whole weeks seemed more than adequate for accomplishing the following projects:
- Send my daughter — my only child — off to college.
- Find a handyman to build a shelf over my new refrigerator.
- Sew new living room curtains.
- Finish a second rewrite of my book manuscript.
- Start teaching two, and possibly three fall journalism courses.
- Clean my wood-burning stove and order firewood.
- Tinker with the design of this blog.
By the end of September, I was feeling smug. Check, check, check — one by one, I was steadily crossing off items. Huge chunks of time seemed to open up because I was staying off of my iPhone and MacBook laptop.
No more Instagramming photos of my food. When I read an interesting story in the newspaper, I simply reflected on it instead of tweeting out a useful link. Facebook…what’s that? My blog sat silent in the distance.
Looking back, I was in a tech detox and didn’t know it.
The self-imposed Internet black-out turned into an inviting black hole, a quiet cave, a deep dive. Priorities shifted. Relationships changed. There has been much mourning and also much humor. I have resurfaced feeling very calm and content.
Here’s what I learned:
- Parents can keep growing too. Gabi went off to college at the end of August. I was home alone, missing my little girl. Now that she’s 19 and I’m 57, we’re transitioning into an adult relationship. Help! In early October, she emailed me “26 Fail-Proof Tips for Keeping Your Chinese Mother Happy.” She said I reminded her of tips #2, 3, 8, 9, 12, 13, 19 and 21. I laughed so hard that I had to re-post on Facebook — a toe-dip back into social media. Inspired to move on, I also began dating yet again on Match.com.
- It’s still possible to love journalism. In May, I quit a full-time reporting job. In September, I returned to the classroom. So right now, I’m wrapping up a fall semester of teaching four college journalism classes and running a media training workshop at an advertising agency. Having chased stories as a reporter and chasing students again as a teacher, I feel recharged and whole. (I’m also looking forward to classes ending next week, haha!)
- Social media is a great support network. Reconnecting has been delightful and more manageable. I feel less pressured now. How pleasant to linger — briefly — over Facebook newsfeeds and catch up with friends. From here, I’m only tweeting things I care about. I Instagram food and pet photos because it’s fun. These websites are starting to feel like different plots in my garden. I tend them because they are enjoyable places to hang out.
- Dogs love unconditionally. On Oct. 22, I put Rosebud down. A heart murmur coupled with the onset of liver failure took their toll.When we rescued her two years and five months earlier, she was already about 12 years old and deaf. It makes me cry just to write about her now. This might sound pathetic but RB and I loved each other so completely. She taught me how to bond without fear of rejection. And with RB, I learned that true love is worth having, however briefly.
- Never give up on romance. Through everything, I kept going on first dates via Match.com. It’s been a relief to know that there are nice, smart guys out there. With the last one, we went from a first date to four dates…in one week! By the second week, the “L” word was on the table. In barely three weeks, we’ve become inseparable. I am in shock — and in love. Forgive me for not providing more info but I need to float with this for a while. It might last, it might not. No matter what, we are both going with it. :)
- Overthinking is a huge roadblock to love and happiness. In replugging, I now view social media as a tool for actually simplifying life. It trains me to communicate ideas in bite-sized nuggets. My most important practice remains this blog. It’s a huge step for me to compress the past three months into this post but I did it! I’m percolating new ways to make my blog more interesting. It will get done if I keep things simple. I have to remember that my first priority is to show up regularly and be here with you.
And how have you been? I know some of you have also been experimenting with managing social media — along with shifting life goals. Please share and advise in your comments below. It will be great to hear from you. xo